Homeless students in Renton schools increased last year

The number of homeless students identified in the Renton School District jumped 6 percent, according to a report from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In 2015-2016 school year, 506 of the 15,952 enrolled students were identified as homeless, a jump from 479 during 2014-2015.

According to Linda Hoste, RSD’s director of categorical programs, the number doesn’t surprise her.

“Overall, the number in the city has been going up because I think we do a better job of doing the count,” Hoste said. “We are also doing a better job of identifying and supporting our families.”

She also said that the district isn’t feeling the impact since the district defines a homeless individual based on the McKinney Vento Act, as opposed to All Home’s definition.

According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed by the U.S. Federal Government to strengthen education support for students who find themselves and their families temporarily without a home, “homeless children and youth” mean individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate night time residents, including individuals who double-up housing with other friends or family, use shelters (including homeless youth shelters or domestic violence shelters), hotels, motels cars, abandoned buildings, parks, streets, public spaces, campgrounds or trailer homes.

Of the 506 counted last year, 104 were in sheltered, 359 doubled up, and less than 10 used to lived in hotels/motels and less than 10 were unsheltered. About 55 of the homeless students either have had a short-term suspension, long-term suspension or expulsion.

Each school district has a homeless student liaison who help organize transportation to and from their school of origin for homeless students and assists them in immediate enrollment in their local school, even without proof of residency, immunization records, school records or other documents normally required to enroll in school. They also provide referrals to health care, dental care and mental health, among other services.

Schools that have 40 percent or more students who have free and reduced lunches receive Title I grants, funds that may be used to increase academic achievement. District liaisons can help provide necessary resources to homeless students using Title I funds. In RSD, Benson Hill, Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill, Cascade, Highlands, Honeydew, Lakeridge, Renton Park, Sierra Heights, Talbot Hill, Tiffany Park and Dimmitt Middle School all receive Title I funding.

“We know that homeless students are more at risk of dropping out of school,” Hoste said. “So it’s very important that there aren’t any barriers that prevent them from coming to school.”